Hess and Franzen are a pair of multi-instrumentalists who have released an amazing album that defies easy categories. Hans Hess lives in Bristol, UK while Renan Franzen lives in Puerto Alegre, Brazil. Together, they have achieved what I can only describe as a masterwork in the genre of … uh … Electronic Prog-Metal Crimsonish Space Rock. Ugh. A woefully inadequate description, even if it does hit some of the styles these guys obviously appreciate.

{CLOSEDLOCKEDSEALED} is a high-energy album of instrumental music. The initial release is 300 CD’s mounted on LP-sized boards with the cover art printed on it and the whole thing in a sealed anti-static envelope. The packaging is a work of art in itself, like LP’s used to be in the old days. In fact, due to the size of the package, you’ll probably want to store this with your LP collection. Doubtless what Hess and Franzen had in mind. If this seems like overkill to you, you can also download the album from CD Baby for the paltry sum of $4.99. (In “Genre” on this site, they call it Metal/Punk: Instrumental Metal. Don’t you believe it. This is prog.)

Now to describe what the music is like … the guitars are prog-metal if you consider Lark’s Tongues in Aspic to be prog-metal. The busy bass lines are more along the lines of what you’d expect from, say, John Myung, and the drums are definitely double-bass prog-metal in style. Except that, near as I can tell, there is no drummer … I believe these are sampled drums, and they’re incredible. What gives them away is the incredible stereo imaging of the drums, rolling across the headphones like thunder echoing from nearby hillsides (oh, yes, you’ll want to listen to {CLOSEDLOCKEDSEALED} on a good set of headphones!). That and the fact that I’m not sure any human could actually play these drums. Not even Mike Portnoy.

And yet there are also sampled string sections, lyrical piano interludes, and even one section that sounds as if it’s about to be a female vocalist any second, though she never actually starts singing. Never mind, then … “she” is a very natural-sounding sample. There are also influences of space rock throughout, both the Hawkwindish metal type and the Hidria Spacefolk synth-based type.

But ultimately {CLOSEDLOCKEDSEALED} isn’t prog-metal, space rock or any other genre you could name. Hess and Franzen have come up with an incredible debut for their fresh new style, and I recommend it very highly. If I had to complain about something, it would be it’s LP-ish length … about 47 minutes. I could have easily listened to much more of this … perhaps a bit more on the next album, which I sincerely hope is in the works. — Fred Trafton

Click here for Hess and Franzen‘s web site
Click here to download {CLOSEDLOCKEDSEALED} from CD Baby
Click here to listen to samples on SoundCloud

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